The Muskie senior girls’ basketball team sits atop NorWOSSA with a perfect 4-0 record midway through the season after their most recent victory—a 41-28 decision over the Kenora Broncos here last Wednesday.
Head coach Gord McCabe hasn’t been seen smiling this much—at least on the basketball court—for quite some time.
And with the junior girls posting a 3-1 record, also coming off a win against the visiting Broncos last Wednesday, all is good in the land of Muskie basketball.
“Well yeah, I’ll take 4-0 over 3-1 any day,” McCabe said after last Wednesday’s win. “We’ve dodged a couple of bullets, like our overtime win [against Kenora two weeks ago].”
While McCabe admitted he probably wouldn’t have fathomed his team being undefeated midway into the season at the start, he certainly will take it. And now he hopes his team will take their game even higher down the stretch.
The team hasn’t been flawless. They’ve fallen into the tendency of jumping out to a quick lead early in a game, or to start the second half, and then suddenly fall asleep at the wheel.
It happened again in their latest game with Kenora. After jumping out to a 9-4 lead after the first quarter, the Muskies appeared to be “lulled” to sleep by the less-talented Broncos.
In fact, Kenora tied the score 14-14 at halftime before the Muskies finally woke up with six points to start the third.
“We scored 14 points in the first half, which I wasn’t very happy with, but then we scored six quick ones in the third,” McCabe said. “I think when we run, we’re the better team.”
Co-coach Kent Kowalski agreed the early second-half spree was the difference in the game. “The third quarter is always a big one. We had them in foul trouble and that was tough for them,” he noted.
Still, the Broncos did pull to within 32-28 with 1:39 to play. But the Muskies regained control when Siobhan Devlin gobbled up an offensive rebound on a missed free throw and hit a short shot underneath.
The black-and-gold scored the final six points after that to seal the victory.
Devlin finished with a game-high 10 points while diminutive rookie guard Sarah Noonan netted nine.
But what really sets this Muskie team apart from past ones is their defence, giving up relatively few points each game. Is that the key to their first-place standing?
“It has to be,” Kowalski said without hesitation. “In past years, we lost games when we scored 41 points.”
Still, there’s no question the team’s best defence is their offence. In fact, the Muskie philosophy is “If we have the ball, the other team can’t score.”
Sounds simple, but it’s effective.
Led by the three-guard system of Noonan, her older sister, Christine, and Laureen Cousineau, the Muskies bring the ball up court with poise and the ability to run a strong half-court offence when they have the lead.
“They have three completely different styles but they complement each other,” McCabe said of his guards.
The Muskies hit the hardwood again this weekend with a tournament in Thunder Bay. Their next NorWOSSA action isn’t until Oct. 19 when they visit Dryden.
Meanwhile, the junior hoopsters are almost as hot as the seniors, dumping the Broncos 35-27 here last Wednesday to improve to 3-1 (their lone loss was an overtime decision against Dryden to start the season).
Although Kenora had closed to within 25-21 at the end of the third quarter, the Muskies went on a 10-2 run in the fourth to put the game out of reach.
Trista Barker led the way with seven points while Allison Hyatt added six. But Kowalski said the play of everyone contributed to the win, noting all 16 players saw court time.
“The girls kept running the floor and they were going after loose balls,” he recalled. “I’m very pleased with the way the players are developing and where the program is headed.”